tv NBC Nightly News NBC June 4, 2012 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
on our broadcast tonight -- security breakdown. tsa troubles at a busy american airport. dozens of screeners fired or suspended. what we are learning about the air security breakdown. fighting cancer, a new weapon against one of the common deadly forms of cancer. plus has science finally gotten the upper hand on melanoma? the war next door, drug smugglers king to the high seas at high speed to bring drugs into the u.s. tonight, exclusively, we are riding along with the feds in hot pursuit. royal scare -- someone important is missing from the picture on the queen's big day during the celebration of her jubilee, a member of the royal family is hospitalized.
jubilee, a member of the royal family is hospitalized. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. it is not just the first line of defense, it is the last time a passenger gets checked before boarding an aircraft in our post 9/11 era. everybody has their own opinion about the blue-shirted tsa inspectors at the airport they have a big job, they don't always do it well. case in point -- fort myers airport in florida where tonight over three dozen tsa personnel, officers, supervisors have been pulled from their jobs for the failure to conduct the kinds of secondary inspections that are supposed to keep terrorists off-guard. this will send a shock through the national system. it is where we begin with nbc's tom costello. >> reporter: it happened at southwest florida international airport, fort myers, five front line security officers fired.
another 38 suspended for two weeks including supervisors and the federal security director, the person responsible for the entire airport security. government sources say a large number of tsa officers on the late shift were no longer conducting random passenger screenings after passengers went through the checkpoint. critics say it is more evidence of trouble at the tsa. >> you have 14,000 administrators, 65,000 personnel. and they don't need to have tsa in that personnel business. they need to get out of it and get into the security business. >> reporter: in a statement to nbc news, the tsa says, accountability is an important aspect of our work and tsa takes prompt and appropriate action with any employee who does not follow our procedures and engages in misconduct. fort myers is a small airport, but the tsa troubles here come after a series of high profile embarrassments.
in honolulu, 48 screeners fired or suspended amid allegations they improperly screened baggage. in charlotte, 12 accused of botching inspections fired. and in newark, eight screeners suspended for sleeping on the job or theft. >> tsa is a giant organization, tom. it has tens of thousands of employees. those folks are doing a very mundane, day in, day out, high volume, high stress job. >> reporter: 50,000 officers work at more than 450 airports screening 1.7 million people each day. security experts acknowledge the monotony of the job can lead to fatigue and complacency. this happened over a two month period last year. tsa insists security was never compromised at fort myers, because what the officers stopped doing was additional random screenings that many of us get selected for from time to time. but the tsa says that randomness is a critical part of its security approach and it cannot have groups of officers deciding
on their own that they're simply not going to do it. brian. >> tom costello in washington. tom, thanks. we turn to what may be a history making brutal wildfire season out west. it already turned deadly with the crash of a tanker aircraft yesterday. there are two new major fires burning tonight. one in california's sequoia national forest, threatening a stand of the giant trees that haven't been touched by fire in 140 years. nbc's miguel almaguer starts us off from the front lines in new mexico. >> this morning i have some unfortunate news -- >> reporter: just before hundreds of fire fighters returned to battle on the front lines today. >> if you would, please join me in a moment of silence. >> reporter: a tribute to two pilots who died sunday in the line of duty. when rescue teams reached the wreckage of the air tanker along the remote nevada/utah border, the bodies of the pilots were recovered. the plane had dropped a load of
fire retardant when for unknown reasons the pilots crashed near the head of the fire. >> these guys in the air keep the fire fighters safe. they protect them. never in our wildest dreams did we think we would bury him. >> reporter: 500 miles away outside reno, nevada, a second air tanker also crash landed. the landing gear malfunctioned but the crew walked away. the fleet of 11 air tankers, now nine, has been called a workhorse for fighting remote wildfires that ravage the west. but today as blazes across the region multiply in size and numbers, the effectiveness of these aging planes has been called into question. meantime, in new mexico, an aerial assault on the largest wildfire burning in the country. 255,000 acres scorched, a burn zone bigger than the city of dallas. >> it is very challenging terrain, very dry conditions. >> long days. >> reporter: with fire fighters working 16-hour shifts, crews
are making progress. in the historic mining town, ground teams say the town once surrounded by fire. >> they probably have saved this town from burning. >> reporter: brian, like other fires burning in this region this one in new mexico will likely burn for weeks if not for months. ahead, containment is roughly 18%. for the men and women battling so hard tonight on the front lines their thoughts are with their colleagues who they lost this weekend. brian. >> miguel almaguer in new mexico for us tonight. miguel, thanks. the political fight between wisconsin's republican governor and the state's public employees' unions coming to a head tonight. there were tremendous protests last year after governor scott walker stripped some of those unions of their collective bargaining rights. tomorrow, he faces a recall election. and nbc's peter alexander has our report. >> reporter: in wisconsin, the final hours in what some have called the second most important race this year. an intensely polarized fight
ahead of the fall's presidential election. fueling passions on both sides. polls show voters are deeply divided ahead of tomorrow's recall election on the state's republican governor scott walker. >> the mayor doesn't have a plan -- >> reporter: it is a fiery local campaign that analysts say high lights the country's nasty political landscape where demonization often drowns out discourse. >> it is give no ground, fight to the death, pursue your opponent, demonize him, that's the way it is in wisconsin. and unfortunately that's the way it's become nationally. >> reporter: shortly after taking office, 18 months ago to combat a swelling budget deaf -- combat a swelling budget deficit, walker stripped workers of collective bargaining rights making them pay more for health insurance and penning benefits. protestors descended on the state capital, a battle over the competing views of the role and size of government.
>> believes more government is the answer. that is two very different positions. >> reporter: milwaukee's mayor democrat tom barrett lost to walker in 2010. >> governor walker has the courage to do what is right for wisconsin. >> reporter: wisconsin has been flooded with a record $64 million in campaign spending much of it from out of state. with walker out raising his opponent 7-1. many voters have had enough. >> it is going to be nice when it is all over. i would like to see wisconsin get back to the calm, friendly place that it used to be. >> reporter: anticipating a very tight race scott walker and challenger, tom barrett have recall lawyers standing by. so this fight in wisconsin could drag on even after tomorrow. and brian, we have seen how recounts have divided americans before. >> peter alexander in the d.c. newsroom tonight. peter, thanks. there is more encouraging
news coming out of the convention of cancer specialists under way now in chicago. tonight, it concerns a new type of drug for melanoma. which can be very difficult to treat once it spreads beyond a skin lesion. our report tonight from our chief science correspondent, robert bazell. >> reporter: pamela maddox, a retired teacher that loves to garden at 57 is quite healthy. two years ago she was close to death from advanced melanoma until she got an experimental drug which targets cancer genes. >> it's kind of like being given a second chance. you don't know how long this is going to last. hopefully, it is a long-term thing. >> reporter: results at the cancer conference today, show her drug, trametinib, cut melanoma in 300 patients by 55%. also at the conference, a different drug that enhances immune response to melanoma and other cancers, showed promising results. both drugs will head to the fda for approval. in the wake of two other drugs
recently okayed for advanced melanoma. >> now we have multiple new treatments we know can be game changers in a profound way. >> reporter: although doctors at this conference recognize the success stories like the increasing ability to fight advanced melanoma, they know there are big challenges ahead like fighting lung cancer, advanced breast and colon cancer. another challenge, a continuing shortage of many cancer drugs. >> how you feeling today? >> reporter: while new drugs often cost $100,000 a year or more, the successful older drugs that many patients like 15-year-old sonali verma rely on cost only hundreds and they remain in critically short supply. >> these drugs that are in short supply are primarily drugs that are older, fairly cheap in terms of purchasing them and not much of a profit margin for the companies. >> reporter: the fda has no authority to tell drug companies what to make. cancer doctors want legislation so the government can stem the shortages. robert bazell, nbc news, chicago. after a big couple days in london, this is a big night
there. the queen's 60th anniversary on the throne, her diamond jubilee. today was overshadowed a bit by word that prince philip, has been hospitalized and his wife the queen has been forced to go on about the celebration without him. while we'll have more on the celebration later tonight, we do want to real quick check in with our own stephanie gosk in london for an update this evening. stephanie, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. the palace announced prince philip had been taken to the hospital with a bladder infection and likely to stay over the next few days. he was seen in public yesterday at the queen's side as part of the flotilla celebration. he looked good at one point even dancing. this is not his first health scare in recent months. he was taken to the hospital over christmas with chest paints and treated for a clogged artery. he turns 91 this sunday. at that age any medical condition is going to be treated seriously. brian. >> stephanie, thanks. >> i know we will have more from
you later in the broadcast. still ahead for us as we continue along the way, while it is sometimes hard to tell, it sure appeared the queen enjoyed that massive celebration. there was a lot to enjoy. and we'll show you all of it coming up later. but first, maybe it is a sign that stopping mexican drug smugglers on land perhaps may be working. now all eyes are on the high seas. erhaps may be working. now all eyes are on the high seas. over the south pacific in . i got mine in iraq, 2003. usaa auto insurance is often handed down from generation to generation. because it offers a superior level of protection, and because usaa's commitment to serve the military, veterans and their families is without equal. begin your legacy, get an auto insurance quote. usaa. we know what it means to serve. like a ramen noodle- every-night budget. she thought allstate car insurance was out of her reach.
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we mentioned this earlier, the drug war on our southern border shifted from a fight on land to a campaign at sea. smugglers are now moving their product across the open ocean in the dark of night coming ashore in southern california with the same boldness and force they have always shown. tonight nbc's mark potter is in the thick of it. his latest report on the war next door. >> reporter: just before dawn near a luxurious malibu beach, a team of suspected mexican smugglers offloads bales of marijuana from a wooden boat trying to elude u.s. authorities.
another smuggling team speeds through the open ocean. officials say these souped up fishing boats are the latest threat from mexico's notorious drug cartel. >> we are seeing 4 and 5 tons of drugs come in per run. we are seeing dozens of runs. it is almost one or two per week at this point. >> reporter: to smuggle marijuana and illegal immigrants into california, the cartel is using mexican fishing boats. called pongas. federal agents say the boats leave from mexico's baja peninsula, and offload all along the california coast. in a recent case, 300 miles north of the mexican border. sometimes they will go 100 miles out to sea before turning inland to evade american patrols. on many levels, these ponga boats are ideal for smuggling, they have a low profile, makes them hard to see, they can carry a big load and with multiple engines they move really quickly. the problem is the boats can be very unsafe in rough seas. if they make it, they usually land on remote beaches near highways.
>> there is usually an offloading team that will have, you know, like a rental boxcar, u-haul or something of that nature to take the payload and transport back to a stash house. >> reporter: to protect the coastline, federal, state and local agencies have formed a task force. >> we are trying to stay as covert as possible. >> reporter: and in the dark of night, overlooking the hills near the ocean, california national guard surveillance teams keep watch with sophisticated night scopes. >> what are you looking for? >> blacked out vessels and any suspicious activity. >> reporter: despite these efforts and many arrests this latest smuggling trend is not slowing down. one more threat to u.s. border security. mark potter, nbc news, los angeles. up next, what an american kid wrote in his letters home from vietnam. never sent, never read until now. vietnam. never sent, never read until now. down here, folks measure commitment
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70 years 70 years ago today the united states turned the tide in the world war ii pacific campaign with the battle of midway just six months after pearl harbor. while our naval fleet was outnumbered four to one, we had great code breakers and brave pilots and the u.s. destroyed four japanese aircraft carriers more than 200 planes in that battle which then changed the course of the war. today veterans gathered across the nation to remember and pay their respects. defense secretary leon panetta on a history making trip to vietnam. he and his counterpart exchanged what they called artifacts. panetta handed over the diary of a vietnamese solder in the u.s. hands and the vietnamese gave him an american soldier's letters home never sent prior to his death in combat in 1969. our report from our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski. >> reporter: it was the spring
of 1969 during some of the bloodiest fighting in vietnam. today, 43 years later, the horrors of the war are dramatically captured in the long lost letters from army sergeant steve flaherty. in a letter written but never delivered to his mother he wrote of dangers no parent would ever want to hear. if dad calls, tell him i got too close to being dead. but i am okay. i was real lucky. even to his mother, flaherty held nothing back. we couldn't retrieve the bodies of our own men or ruck sacks. jets dropped napalm and explosives that destroyed everything. flaherty's mother didn't live to read his letters, but to his sister, martha givens, his words hit home. >> when i read them i immediately was in tears. because you really can't grasp the seriousness of it until you read it from the handwriting of your own family member. >> reporter: flaherty shared the
worst of his fears in a letter to a young woman named betty. we dragged more bodies of dead and wounded than i can ever want to forget. i felt bullets going past me. i have never been more scared in my life. flaherty was killed shortly after writing those letters taken from his body by the north vietnamese. until finally released to u.s. officials today. jim miklaszewski, nbc news, the pentagon. word from texas tonight, joe haggar has died. he will be long remembered in dallas for being a civic leader, city council member, but it was during his time running the family business, haggar slacks that joe was immortalized on audio tape. he was at home one night in 1964, when president lyndon johnson called him to order six pairs of khakis. lbj loved haggar's slacks and gave meticulous instructions during the call which features his usual burping and barnyard language. the recording became a cult favorite on radio and the web when the lbj library released the tape.
a few years back. here's the president calling joe haggar. >> these are almost -- these are the best i've had anywhere in the united states. >> fine. >> but when i gain a little weight, they cut me under there. so leave me -- you never do have much margin there but see if you can't leave me about an inch from where the zipper -- ends around under my -- back to my [ bleep ]. >> lyndon johnson, joe haggar, 1964. up next here, after a break, when you are the queen, you can ask the very best to perform for you. queen, you can ask the very best to perform for you. ♪ ♪ [ male announcer ] at nissan, our ideal is innovation. 5 all-new models over the next 15 months, including a completely reimagined altima. welcome to our most innovative year ever.
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get your first full prescription free and save on refills at advaircopd.com. finally tonight, back to london where this was a big night. britain's very best entertainers came out to salute the queen's 60th jubilee and celebrate their country before the world. again, nbc's stephanie gosk was there. >> reporter: without prince philip at her side, queen elizabeth lit a diamond jubilee beacon. thousands more were lit all over the world today in honor of her 60-year reign. tonight the royal family said thank you with a star-studded concert on the front steps of buckingham palace itself.
annie lennox. ♪ must be talking to an angel must be talking to an angel ♪ >> reporter: sir elton john. ♪ i remember when rock was young ♪ >> reporter: stevie wonder. ♪ this moment is lovely >> reporter: sir paul mccartney. ♪ close your eyes and i'll kiss you ♪ ♪ tomorrow i'll miss you please remember i'll always be true ♪ >> reporter: 10,000 spectators lucky enough to win a ticket lottery watched it in person. prince charles took to the stage to honor his mother and father. >> for inspiring us with your selfless duty and service. >> reporter: this is the monarchy at its most modern, a nimble turn after a weekend of century's old tradition. on the river thames sunday, a
1,000 boat flotilla. the queen with her family including prince philip sailed past central london as the nation saluted. from the top deck of the "spirit of chartwell" a throne was built, but the 86-year-old monarch never sat down. prince philip looked healthy even dancing. despite the driving rain. the queen was visibly thrilled to see the british public turn out in her honor. more than a million on balconies, bridges and river banks. after 60 years the monarchy is more popular than ever, still rooted in tradition, but not afraid, every once in a while to kick up its heels. at one point, his speech, prince charles turned to the crowd and said if you shout loud enough my father will hear you. the crowd erupted in cheers and repeatedly shouted prince philip's name, maybe he did hear them. >> stephanie, you got to witness something great there.
thank you very much. a reminder for us, this continues tomorrow morning on "today" matt and meredith live in the morning from buckingham palace. that's our broadcast on a monday night. thank you for being here with us. i am brian williams. of course, we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. right back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com a little bird told me about a band... ♪ an old man shared some fish stories... ♪ oooh, my turn. ♪ she was in paris, but we talked for hours...